Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Cloying

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is cloying. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Cloying means “excessively sweet or sentimental.” 

// She finds most romantic comedies cloying and predictable.

CLOYING in Context

“The series is also a showcase for the affect that [comedian Sam] Richardson has become known for, an extra-beatific quality that verges on pathological but is never pathetic or cloying, even when the goofiness runs sweet.” — Lauren Michel Jackson, The New Yorker, 29 May 2022

Did You Know?

We won’t bore you with the sappy tale behind the word cloying, because happily, there isn’t one. That’s because its history isn’t sweet, but rather tough as nails. Cloying comes from the verb cloy, which had among its earliest uses the meaning (to quote the Oxford English Dictionary) “to render [a gun] useless by driving a spike or plug into the touch-hole.” This ultra-specific sense of clogging and stuffing arose alongside both broader and figurative ones, including “to fill or choke up,” and cloy has since come to mean “to supply or indulge to excess.” Accordingly, cloying implies a nauseating amount of something that might be pleasing in smaller doses, especially both literal and metaphorical sweetness.

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